Ever since Richard Nixon and Nancy Reagan proclaimed a “war on drugs,” the United States has been struggling to create a unified drug policy that would both keep our streets safe and our children properly educated about the dangers of substance abuse and addiction.
But how can we as a society criminalize an activity that so many Americans engage in every day? The debate rages on as many people in power push for even stricter laws regarding drugs while others look for ways to legalize drugs, such as marijuana.
The following information represents an overview of where we’ve been as a society in terms of drug policy, where we stand in more recent years, and what the future holds for this country where drug abuse and addiction have seemingly become as American as apple pie.
Key Historical Drug Policy Moments in the United States
In 1971, then-President Richard M. Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) with the express purpose of fighting back against the copious amounts of drugs flowing in over our borders. Nixon called it the “war on drugs” – a phrase that would be brought back into the national consciousness again during the Reagan presidency in the 1980s.
Through tougher laws and powerful advertising campaigns, the war on drugs was intended to rid our streets of illegal narcotics and put foreign drug cartels out of business within our borders.
In 1994, it was revealed that the war on drugs had caused over 1,000,000 people to be incarcerated in the United States. Given than many of these individuals were non-violent drug users, one would have to question whether the goals of the war had truly been achieved. Drug rates are down overall in the U.S., but leading sociologists have found that it is due to other societal factors – and not government policy.
What Is the Current Drug Policy in the United States?
Depending upon whom you ask, we are currently either doing too much in terms of prosecuting drug addicts and other offenders, or not enough. It is hard to dispute that the criminalization has done anything except lead to the overcrowding of our prisons. However, overall drug use rates are down from where they were 25 years ago, which could lead one to believe that we must be doing something right.
One area where we have not focused enough energy is the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Some say we have been too preoccupied with putting drug users in prison as opposed to helping them get the help they need via drug rehab. There are a high number of non-violent individuals currently living in our prison system as a result of drug addiction. This issue needs to be addressed if we are to be seen as a forward-thinking, progressive nation who rehabilitates addicts.
Drug Policy and Legalization
In the 1930s, the United States government attempted to rid our country of the “scourge” of alcohol by making booze illegal. The Prohibition Era was a failure that created an entire underworld that served as the black market for alcohol. Many lives were lost during this period and soon the ban was lifted.
There is much we can learn today about this time in our nation’s history. We can all agree that the potential damage drugs can do is so significant that they can never be recommended to anyone for recreational use. However, some argue that by criminalizing drug use, we are also creating a dangerous criminal element within our borders. Drug gangs have claimed the lives of many individuals. Drug users who were jailed instead of receiving proper treatment have seen their lives thrown into chaos as a result.
Currently, marijuana has been approved for medicinal use and sale in several parts of the country. While marijuana is not heroin, there are still many people of note watching these “experiments” with a critical eye to gauge their impact on the community and its residents.
This is not an easy problem to solve, however, one hopes that we will find new perspectives on drug abuse and addiction in this country that will help us win this “war” once and for all.
Future Drug Policy Initiatives
Currently, we are placing a great deal of emphasis on Afghanistan. In addition to wars fought in the Middle East, we are also attempting to stop the flow of drugs that is coming from this area into our country as well. Afghanistan is home to some of the richest poppy fields in the world. These poppies are used to make a number of illicit drugs, including heroin. It is a known fact that the sale of poppies and heroin in Afghanistan finance many terrorist operations – making our victory in this country important on a number of fronts.
We are also engaged in helping our brothers and sisters to the south in Mexico. The past several years have not been kind to Mexico – ruthless drug cartels pay off government officials so they can do their business without interference from law enforcement. The result is a country that has literally been thrown into chaos. Horrific killings and kidnappings in the name of drug sales are now so common that most Mexicans fail to bat an eye when they occur.
Why is this important to us? Because drugs from Mexico flow over the border into our country with regularity. What we accomplish in Mexico through helping their government will have a direct impact on our city streets.
Finally, a new front has appeared in the battle against drugs: the Internet. Thousands of illicit pharmacies are now selling prescription medications, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, to U.S. citizens. There is no medical checkup or doctor’s approval required – simply a credit card and a mailing address. These pharmacies are incredibly dangerous – as many have been found to be selling tainted or expired medications, often to teens and elderly who do not know any better. Our drug policy must be expanded to cyberspace if we are to stay one step ahead of the criminals who are using modern technology to sell drugs.
Real Rehabilitation for Addicts
If someone you know is suffering from drug abuse or audition, contact us today. We can connect you with a high-quality addiction treatment program that can help your loved one achieve sobriety for good. If you need help for your own addiction issues, don’t hesitate to call as well.